In February 2001 the Archdiocese of Philadelphia established the Office for Community Development (OCD). OCD's work has proven to be an asset throughout neighborhoods in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, as OCD regularly adapts to the needs of each community it works with. Notable among OCD's achievements has been building trust among neighborhood residents, merchants, and other stakeholders. The following are a few examples of OCD's work over the last few years.
The Visitation Gateway Neighborhood (Kensington)
OCD began its efforts in the Visitation Gateway Neighborhood by spearheading the development of Visitation Homes and the Cardinal Bevilacqua Community Center. These two buildings, respectively operated by Catholic Social Services and Visitation B.V.M. Parish, now support children and families, and have contributed to the physical transformation of nearly a full city block once plagued by blight and illegal activity. Both buildings opened in 2003.
Today, OCD continues to work on revitalization efforts in the Visitation Gateway Neighborhood. OCD partners with local business owners, works on streetscape improvements, manages a Town Watch to help monitor safety, and provides cleaning and greening services in the neighborhood. In 2009, OCD collaborated with neighboring community development corporations, nonprofit organizations, and residents to write a neighborhood plan. The neighborhood plan now serves as a roadmap for future work of the office in this neighborhood. OCD's commitment to the Visitation Gateway Neighborhood is possible through its partnership with J.J. White, Inc. and Beneficial Bank.
St. Hugh Neighborhood (Fairhill)
In 2008, OCD completed the rehabilitation of 17 formerly vacant houses, providing affordable homeownership opportunities for first-time homebuyers in the St. Hugh Neighborhood. This project was identified through a neighborhood planning process with the St. Hugh of Cluny Parish and local residents. For this project, OCD brought together time and investment from the Hispanic Association of Contractors & Enterprises (HACE), a longstanding, local community development corporation; the Department of Community and Economic Development; the City's Home Rehabilitation Program; and Beneficial Bank. The rehabilitation of these houses successfully stabilized residential blocks in the Fairhill Neighborhood and provided 17 families with the opportunity to own a home.
Saint John Neumann Place (South Philadelphia)
Saint John Neumann Place (SJNP) is the conversion of the former Saint John Neumann High School into affordable housing for independent seniors. Neighbors near the high school approached local parishes and the Archdiocese about converting the building into senior housing when they first heard of the school's closing in 2005. OCD evaluated the need for such housing, identified if there was community support, and assessed financial feasibility. OCD received funding to convert the building from PNC Bank, Beneficial Bank, and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA), completing the development in 2008.
Today, SJNP is home to 75 independent seniors and is operated by Catholic Health Care Services, which provides supportive services to those living there. The conversion of a neighborhood icon into a new, long-term use proved to be a successful model to be replicated at other Archdiocesan properties.
Nativity B.V.M. Place (Port Richmond)
OCD is working with Catholic Health Care Services (CHCS) towards the conversion of the former parish school at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (B.V.M.) into 63 one-bedroom apartments for independent seniors. The development was the only recipient of funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly in 2010. The entire building conversion is anticipated to be ready for residents by the beginning of 2013. The building will incorporate green and sustainable technology and materials, and will be applying for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED ®) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.